This is all getting a little too familiar… and tiring.
Not just the unhealthy habit City have acquired of losing games but the near apocalyptic fallout that ensues following every setback.
The old ‘not too high when you win and not too low when you lose’ adage is clearly not for us.
By the same score there no point in pretending that City played well last night. They didn’t. It was horrible at times. But when you’re Norwich City in the Premier League and you’re faced with a good side who are playing with oodles of confidence and who even have the whiff of a Premier League title in their nostrils it is going to be tough.
What you can ill afford to do in those circumstances is give your opponents a head start.
Good old Norwich.
Alex Neil described the award of the penalty for Spurs’ second goal as “soft” – and it was – but so too Dele Alli’s opener.
You can hear the final pre-match words of Alex and Frankie now… “keep it tight early on, keep your shape, nothing silly, make them work for it”.
Alas the opposite was true. There was no shape – there were bodies scattered all over the place. They were anything but tight. And Spurs really didn’t have to work very hard to carve themselves out an early lead.
And from thereon-in the game plan was screwed.
A midfield that contains Alex Tettey and Youssouf Mulumbu and which doesn’t contain Wes and Nathan Redmond is designed specifically to make it hard for our opponents, and to stifle their creativity and attacking intent. It isn’t designed, or equipped, to be 1-0 in just over a minute.
With no Russell Martin and no Graham Dorrans, Ivo Pinto has made an earlier than expected bid to be next on the hit-list and without question was afforded a torrid opening 45 by a combination of Messrs Kane, Alli, Eriksen and Rose.
But just 180 minutes in the shirt is too early for folk to be making snap judgements on his ability, or otherwise, to survive in the Premier League.
Ditto Timm Klose, who it appears has already been deemed ‘too slow’ by some to help our fight for survival.
And there’s the rub with bringing in players in January – especially those who are experiencing Premier League football for the first time. We want them to hit the ground running, we need them to hit the ground running, but in reality it’s a virtual impossibility.
While some criticise Alex Neil for chopping and changing his starting XI on a game-by-game basis, others were demanding that we see new faces arrive in January to freshen things up. It’s a circle that cannot be squared.
Klose – who I actually thought had a decent debut – and Pinto need time to bed in, but as the points slip away week by week we don’t have time. It’s a conundrum, and one that will only right itself – or at least be disguised – by City winning games of football.
Unfortunately, at the moment wins are merely figments of our collective imagination and that 1-0 triumph over Southampton on January 2, now feels of a different age. That’s 32 days of being marooned on 23 points. Hardly the stuff of PL relegation scrappers.
But last night’s defeat was not down to lack of effort or, for me, the wrong tactics.
The tactics seemed appropriate to the task in hand and having conceded five with a midfield that contained no enforcers but three attacking midfielders it made sense to rein it in with two holders and two disciplined ‘wide’ players (with apologies to Jonny Howson).
The game plan – as already discussed – was undone partly by the early goal and also by the seemingly effortless swagger of Pochettino’s men.
By enjoying so much possession in advanced areas they were able to utilise both full-backs as additional wide men and were comfortably able to overload City down both flanks, but most notably down the side of Master Pinto.
Part of the plan was to crowd Tottenham out in the middle of the pitch, via a narrow midfield, and not allow them to pass ‘through’ us. In isolation that element of it worked okay. The trade-off was conceding space out wide and, for the reasons stated, that part of it certainly did not, especially in the first-half.
But there’s no escaping the quality of the visitors and having led us a merry dance on Boxing Day they did exactly the same last night. An aggregate of 6-0 says it all. So too that City have conceded 17 goals in their last five games.
There’s also no escaping that when in a predicament such as ours you need just a little bit of good fortune: a lucky bounce, a wicked deflection, hell… even a decision or two to go your way. Alas with Kevin Friend in charge that’s about as likely as a Norwich clean sheet.
Our friend in black was not the reason we lost last – that was because Spurs were better than us – but I would dearly love to know if, deep down, he thinks his decision-making was on the button last night. Just curious.
Things are not going for us at the moment. We’re just in one of those ruts that typifies a relegation battle and when it feels as if our imminent demise is all part of one huge Premier League conspiracy.
The answer as ever is thus: we hunker down, pull the coaches in close, stick together and use the negative energy to our advantage.
And Villa Park seems like the perfect place for the fightback to start.